"Of brown and amber malt I need say but little. These are used for flavour rather than colour, and the products of different manufacturers vary considerably in both respects. Such malts enter, however, into the composition of some of the best blends of black beer grists. The irregularity in their character, which was at one time very marked, is now partially remedied, and there are now on the market excellent samples of both types of material, and the increased reliability lately observable will, no doubt, do much to restore confidence in, and extend the use of, these materials. I have met with some samples of brown malt which fade considerably on storage, but others, and the better made, appear to possess substantially the same permanency of colour as black malt. In any case, the colour question is a minor one, as any colour which they may give is generally swamped by the much greater tintorial value of the black malt with which they are used."
"Journal of the Institute of Brewers vol. 13, 1907", pages 493-494.
See why they're so hard to pin down? Because they varied so much. For someone like me, who's interested in attempting to recreate historical beers, this presents somewhat of a problem. As no general rules apply, you'd need to determine the qualities of each individual manufacturers malt.
This is something that's been slowly percolating through my thick skull. That the next logical step in my quest is to look at malting records. I wonder how many still exist? And are they the right ones? Page, French and Baird are maltsters who supplied brown malt to London brewers. They would be the ones to start with.
"Crystallised malt differs from the preceding varieties, inasmuch as it is frequently used, not only in black but in mild beers, in which it is useful as giving a rich nutty flavour. I consider it extremely valuable as a constituent of mild beer grist, where the colour of that beer will permit its use. In some cases from 2—5 per cent, of crystal malt is employed with great advantage, and I think the expense is warranted. It is, I believe, the practice of some manufacturers to use a sugar solution in the preparation of this malt, but perfectly good material may be made without it, and I see no advantage in its employment; indeed, I think I have seen just as good malt made without sugar as with it. The weight of crystal malt is, as a rule, 250—280 lb. a quarter. There is a considerable difference between the extract yielded when mashed alone and when mashed with pale malt. When extracted alone, the yield averages about 50 lb.; when mashed with malt, it may be as high as 80 lb., these extracts being calculated as the weight of 336 lb. This is a matter of no importance in practice, as crystal malt is always used in the mash-tun with pale malt. The actual extract given by crystal malt on natural weight in mash-tun practice is probably about 50 lb. The colour of a 10-per-cent. solution examined in a 1-inch cell varies from 100°—250°. I think a minimum colour of 125° would be a fair basis for purchase."100° to 250° is quite a big colour range. To put those numbers into context (as the colour of malt is no longer measure this way) black malt was between 1000 and 1500°. Yet another problem for recreationists. Which type of crystal malt was a brewery using? The only possible clue, other than chasing down the malting records, is the weight per quarter. Assuming, that is, that the malts with a lighter weight would be of a darker shade. But that is, at best, a very crude method.
"Journal of the Institute of Brewers vol. 13, 1907", page 494.
"In all these coloured malts there is much difference in tenderness to be observed as well as in evenness of roasting. It is only necessary to place a sample in a barley cutter to see the irregularity of any sample. In the cheap malts of this class very serious defects of this character may sometimes be noted, but if made from good grain, evenly malted, very considerable regularity is obtainable. It is to be noted that it has been found quite impossible to produce satisfactory crystal material, except from malted grain. All efforts to produce this from barley have hitherto been futile."Cheeky bastards, trying to make crystal from unmalted grains.
"Journal of the Institute of Brewers vol. 13, 1907", pages 494-495.
"In speaking of the permanency of colour produced by malt, I do not overlook the fact that there is in certain cases a very definite loss of colour occurring in black and, indeed, other beers on storage. This is, I believe, often due to bacterial infection, for it has been long ago observed by many that infected beers are very liable to become pale on storage. Some of this decrease of colour may be due to increase of the acid reaction of the beer, but that bacteria do, apart from their influence upon acidity, actually decolorise beer is, I think, quite clearly established. The same remark applies to some types of wild yeast infection, and, though with less force, to particular types of actual brewing yeast. There are yeasts in certain breweries which have a very marked decolorising influence upon worts into which they are introduced. Such yeasts are generally of very attenuative type. Indeed, they often have characteristics which seem to indicate a tendency to revert to the original type of wild yeast from which, no doubt, all culture yeasts have been in the first instance derived. These types are, however, very unusual, and the ordinary pitching yeast of a well-regulated brewery removes but little colour from the beer, either during primary or secondary fermentation."
"Journal of the Institute of Brewers vol. 13, 1907", page 495.
This is all new to me. I'd never imagined that bacteria could remove colour from a beer. Let alone pitching yeast. I'd naively assumed that colour was pretty well permanent. But more of that in the next installment. When we consider the colouring qualities of roasted malt and roasted barley. Lawrence Briant (the author of the article I've been quoting like crazy) carried out a series of fascinating experiments to see what differences he could spot between these two colouring malts.